Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 6: Up Close with Vietnam’s Patriarch

So we know Ho Chi Minh was formerly Saigon but have you ever wondered where the name Ho Chi Minh came from? Or what it is? Rather, who?

I didn’t bother finding out as I’m no history junkie so after our first museum visit, I learned that Ho Chi Minh was a prominent revolutionary leader and former president of Vietnam. He was also the chairman of the central committee of the communist party of Vietnam. And somehow, the overall impression I gleaned was that he was a very well-respected, if not well-loved by the Vietnamese people. And who wouldn’t? In my brief trip to Vietnam, I’ve grown quite fond of him despite being a staunch supporter of communism.

Volcano and totems symbolizing the
great power of national liberation

Ho Chi Minh Museum. Now, don’t confuse this with the Ho Chi Minh City Museum which is in Saigon. The museum has five floors of collections of memorabilia, photographs, documents, and artifacts all pertaining to the great Vietnamese leader. I especially loved the photograph timeline where we can see the different sides of Ho Chi Minh’s persona as a charismatic president, as a father to his people, and as a war leader. What I found really heartwarming was the fact that Vietnamese people with their kids also visit the museum, trying to get to know the man who shaped their nation’s history. Our next stop would have been the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where his embalmed body lies. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.   

The one-pillar pagoda remains to be a place of offering

One-Pillar Pagoda. The name already says it all. It’s a pagoda balanced on top of one pillar. Nothing much to see here or do, except take pictures or make an offering.

Beautiful contrast of the yellow Palace against
the lush greens
Ho Chi Minh Presidential Palace. One of my favorite stops for the day was the Presidential Palace. Not only did I find the yellow palace beautiful set against very lush greens, I also found the walk around the area very relaxing since there were plenty of trees and greens. Although we weren’t allowed entry into the Palace itself, the surrounding areas were equally wonderful. We saw some of Ho Chi Minh’s cars and his bamboo stilt house, which is said to be where he lived for quite a time before his death. The stilt house is very reflective of his simplicity and humility. (No wonder why I really like this man!) I also loved the huge fishpond with koi fishes fronting the stilt house. I could almost imagine Ho Chi Minh walking around the place, in his kamisa de chino-like clothes and slippers, feeding the koi fishes, or walking up to his mango orchard.

My ride! 
I would love to live in this bamboo stilt house! 
Unclo Ho fishpond

One of the interesting figures inside the Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature. I insisted we check out this place, half-imagining we could get to browse some of the old Vietnamese poems or short stories. I was expecting more on the literature side and less on the temple side but it turned out the other way. It used to be a school but now it’s a place for people to pray.

Vietnam National Museum of History. Can I just say that Vietnam is swarming with museums? I felt like we had too many museum visits and yet, we haven’t even visited most of them. The National Museum of History was an interesting place in that it keeps historical artifacts such as jars, tools, even the teeth, skull, and bones of early Vietnamese people. (Chocoholic's Note: Cameras are not allowed inside the museum.)

We wanted to check out the Museum of Revolution but we couldn’t find it and the non-English-speaking locals could not help either. We decided to call it a day. We had to catch a train ride later that night. (Yes, the 30-hour train ride again back to Saigon.) 

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